Persons with Disabilities and Stakeholders Raise their Concerns over Proposed Disability BillNov 14, 2016
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and other stakeholders have suggested new areas for amendment in the proposed Disability Bill.
The concerns were put forth to lawmakers at an interaction programme held in Kathmandu on Friday with UNDP’s support.
Speaking at the programme, one of the participants, Dr. Lalita Joshi, pointed out that the classification of PWDs in the proposed bill was far too broad to begin with. “There are so many types of disability and levels of severity and implications, and these cannot be lumped under sweeping categories,” she said. She further argued that the identity cards issued to PWDs should also be made more scientific and designed to capture the various distinctions between conditions.
Meanwhile, anesthesiologist Dr. Sunita Maleku Amatya, whose 11-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, urged for the proposed bill to recognize distinctive categories of developmental disability, which includes autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, among others. “Our parliamentarians should make certain that our legislations reflect the commitment of the Sustainable Development Goals to improving the lives of the disabled,” she said.
Another participant, Ram Chandra Gaire, himself visually impaired, demanded that the law also include provisions for penalizing persons who falsely claim government benefits meant for PWDs.
The interaction was organized by the Women, Children, Senior Citizens and Social Welfare Committee (WCSCSWC) and UNDP's Parliament Support Project (PSP) with over 50 participants from various organizations.
Among the numerous other amendments to the bill that were suggested at the event, the most prominent had to do with ensuring jobs, reproductive rights, removal of territorial restrictions in lodging complaints against discrimination, providing sufficient allowance, exemption from tax, sign language facilities in public places and hospitals for PWDs.
Many of those present at the programme were of the view that several aspects of the proposed bill were incompatible with the spirit of the country’s constitution, as well as international instruments to which Nepal is a party.
In Nepal, PWDs often feel excluded from many areas of daily life. It was to mitigate this that the new bill had proposed adopting a comprehensive definition of disability, marking different categories of disability, facilitating provision of identity cards and management of records, as well as securing the rights of PWDs, including access to education, health, employment, social security and rehabilitation services. The bill also advocates for certain special privileges for PWDs, in terms of access to credit facilities for entrepreneurship, discounts on public transportation, exemption from taxes and excise duty on health-related items, and facilities in employment and education.
Following principle deliberations, the bill is now being scrutinized by the WCSCSWC under the Legislature-Parliament, in order to consolidate the existing legal provisions and introduce new ones to better protect and promote the rights of PWDs.
Chairperson of the Committee, Ranju Jha, assured participants that the committee would do its utmost to accommodate their concerns during its next deliberation on the matter. She also promised that the committee would afford high priority to the bill, and expressed her hope that the legislation could soon be finalized.
Following the promulgation of the new constitution, UNDP’s PSP has been supporting a number of parliamentary committees to strengthen their oversight and law-making functions.
Kalpana Sarkar, Programme Analyst at UNDP, said, “UNDP stands for promoting the commitments made by various international conventions, the constitution and the SDGs.”